Austen wrote “The Watsons,” an unfinished and unpublished novel, in 1804. It is the story of a poverty-stricken young woman whose only friend is her ailing clergyman father. A Sotheby’s book specialist, Gabriel Heaton, said the draft “has afforded an extremely broad audience an insight into the author’s process and reworkings.”
One of the few Austen manuscripts to survive, “The Watsons” was revised and corrected in Austen’s tiny, precise handwriting. The manuscript shows, for example that after describing a character named Lord Osborne as exhibiting “carelessness” and “awkwardness” she went back and added “coldness.”
Austen, who died in 1817 at age 41, published six novels. They include “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice.” She wrote “The Watsons” the year before her father died and after the early versions of what eventually became “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Northanger Abbey.”
The first part of the manuscript, some 12 pages, was sold during World War I to benefit the Red Cross and now belongs to the Morgan Library & Museum. The other 68 pages had been in private hands in Britain.